• West Midlands Ambulance Trust to pull out of £25m patient transport contract two years early
  • Trust says contract is unsustainable without extra funding 
  • Discussions with the CCGs have been ongoing for six months

An ambulance trust plans to pull out of a five year patient transport contract that it says is “unsustainable” without extra funding.

West Midlands Ambulance Services Trust, which took on the non-urgent patient transport contract for Cheshire, Wirral and Warrington in 2016-17, said it will have to withdraw from the deal two years early.

The trust said a centralisation of secondary care services means the services are “not in a sustainable position without additional funding”.

It has told commissioners that it intends to withdraw from the contract by 2019.

In a statement, the trust said commissioners will need to retender the service to new requirements in order to inject any additional funding. The trust said that withdrawing from the current deal does not prevent it from bidding for the new one, but has not confirmed whether it intends to bid.

Michelle Brotherton, the operational delivery director for the service, said: “Due to the centralisation of some services, which has resulted in longer journeys, the contract is considerably different to that which was tendered in 2016.

“WMAS independently increased staffing numbers by 22 whole time equivalents over and above what was initially commissioned to protect patient care. Additional ambulances were also brought in by the trust to ensure patients received the highest standards of care.

“Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable position without additional funding. As a trust we were not prepared to provide a sub-optimal service based on the funding.

“WMAS has been working with commissioners for over six months to find a way forward. We completely understand the reasons why the CCGs were unable to increase the funding, which has triggered the need for us to withdraw. We are confident that whoever wins the new contract will see additional funding and investment which will protect jobs and ensure patient care remains the highest priority.”

The GMB union raised concerns over the development yesterday, with organiser Mike Buoey saying: “WMAS say they will ditch the contract in 2019 and our concern now is for our members’ jobs and the vulnerable patients they transport.”

The services were previously delivered by North West Ambulance Service.

In a statement on behald of the four CCGs, Simon Banks, chief officer for Wirral CCG said: ”The reality is that the requirement to withdraw and re-tender is purely down to the limitations of procurement law, not the current service or the provider. We are progressing a procurement exercise to ensure a new service provider is in place from April 2019.

“Nothing will change for patients and they will not be affected in any way by this process”

Story was updated at 16:43 after HSJ recieved a comment from the CCGs